There are certain things that all great actors share: talent, dedication, and courage, to name a few. Another thing I have found that many great actors who I’ve known over the years share is a rich and vibrant imagination.
Using your imagination is a wonderful, creative exercise. It is essential for you as an artist to recognize and cultivate the part of the brain that sees beyond the obvious and is able to create whole other worlds. Like any other muscle, you need to work it out so it stays alive and strong.
The easiest way to do so is to combine imagination with observation. Our powers of observation can get a little rusty given the pace at which we live and the amount of things we have to distract us. In L.A., we run the risk of being further isolated by the time we spend in our cars. So, it’s a good idea to set aside time to be out in public, be still, and look around. Take yourself out to a museum, a park, the beach, a mall, but don’t just sit there getting drowsy or checking out. Let you imagination run wild and create some new worlds.
For example, you could pick a person and watch them closely. Notice all of the details of what they’re wearing: their hair, the pitch of their voice, their laugh, etc. Now, imagine where they would live. House or apartment? How is it furnished? Do they have a lot of dishes or just one or two? Are there picture of people in the living room? If so, who are they? What job does this person have? Do they like it? What kind of money do they make? Are they comfortable or do they need more? Are they lonely or do they want more time alone? What do they dream of at night? What do they long for? And on and on – as many questions you can think of asking until that person comes alive for you in a specific, real, and heartfelt way. Now, do it again and again until your eyes and ears are razor sharp from observing and your brain aches a bit from the exertion of all of your imagining.
What a wonderful way to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening, and what good you have done your creative soul and brain! When you take the time to wonder what life is like for others in this detailed way, you are expanding the parameters of your own imagination, and there are so many ways that an active and well-oiled imagination can help your work. Your concentration is improved, your focus is laser sharp, and all of your decisions are more specific.
Next time you get a scene or character that you’re having trouble relating to, you can remember how exhilarating and fun it was to imagine someone else’s life and you do the same for the character. If you take the time away from the piece to furnish their house and fill their cupboards and closets, when you come back to the dialogue on the page you’ll feel energized and excited, ready to expand the possibilities of the role instead of being frustrated by its limitations.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.